Thursday, April 23, 2009

Review: Cut

Cut, Patricia McCormick

McCormick's first novel (published in 2000) is a small book, both in format (5" x 7") and page count (151). Its intended audience is female 'tweens and young teens.

Callie, 15, is a "cutter"—she cuts her arms with her mother's Exacto craft blade and wears long sleeves to hide the scars. When she inexplicably cuts her palm, she ends up in Sea Pines, a residential treatment facility. For the first 50 pages, Callie talks to no one—not her therapist, her Group, or any of the attendants—no one. As one super-jerk reviewer said, the story is told from "inside Callie's own head." Unwilling to allow anyone to help her help herself, the story is mostly about her group-mates: one very obese girl, two anorexics, two drug addicts, and later on another cutter, Amanda, who proudly displays her scars and talks about the "exquisite pain" and "control" of cutting. Amanda, a street-wise smart-ass, tells Callie that spraying the cut with hairspray or rubbing alcohol makes the scar more pronounced, "but that hairspray works the best."

Swell. Just the right message for thirteen-year-old girls.

McCormick writes well—she ought to, considering she spent three years researching and writing this tiny book—but the term "mental illness" is never mentioned. Not once. On page 4, Callie tells us about Sea Pines from inside her own head,

"We, by the way, are called guests. Our problems are called issues. Most of the girls are anorexic . . . Some are druggies . . . The rest, like me, are assorted psychos. We're called guests with behavioral issues. The nurses are called attendants. And the place is called a residential treatment facility. It is not called a loony bin."
Double that previous "Swell." Callie is a psycho in a looney bin. She does not have a mental illness, and she is not a patient in a hospital. We learn nothing about the etiology (cause) of Callie's cutting until we're ¾ through the book: **SPOILER** Callie cuts herself as punishment for causing her little brother's asthma. Can you say lame? **END OF SPOILER**

Cutting is a serious illness, but this book is not the place for either a girl or a parent to garner any information about it. Despite three pages of "Raves for Cut" by idiot reviewers, I believe a more appropriate title would be Nancy Drew and a Case of Issues.


Wandering Coyote said...

I am a recovered "cutter", self-mutilator, self-injurer (I have BPD)...Whatever you want to call it. I've seen this book around but haven't gotten around to reading it. It would probably be way too triggering for me, and if you say, it doesn't offer any real insight, it's probably not worth it.

Usually girls cut for lots of reasons that go WAY deeper than mere sibling rivalry - sounds like the author couldn't be bothered really digging in, despite her research.

Charlie said...

WC: Clinically, I found the book even worse, but I didn't think a book review was the place for a rant.

Believe me when I say, pass on this one.

Kim Ayres said...

Considering the fears and worries of those concerned about "cutters", a decent insight would have been so much better

Charlie said...

KIM: The reason I was reading a novel for juvenile girls was twofold: to gain some insight for my own woefully-poor knowledge about cutting, and to see how it was presented to its audience.

Unfortunately, it came up short in both categories.

Koolio said...

Charlie, I'm amazed that you able to read it 'til the end. I would have"issues" with it as well. Nancy Drew sounds much more appealing! ;)

Charlie said...

KOOL: Unless a book makes me hurl or includes cruelty to animals, I always finish it. I'm a cheap bastard and I'm gonna get my money's worth, dammit.

Mary Witzl said...

A few of my daughters' friends are cutters, and for the life of me I can't figure it out. I know some of the parents; they're very good people and genuinely care about their kids. The kids are both materially and emotionally well provided for, though two have learning difficulties. One is a little spoiled and doesn't spend enough time with her parents (who both work), but that is about it. I can't figure it out; just looking at their cuts breaks my hearts. What do they say to their own kids someday when they ask about the scars?

'I gave my brother asthma' doesn't really make sense, but then neither does anything else...

Charlie said...

MARY: Your comment confirms that cutting is more prevalent than the public knows—or, pessimistically, cares.

And like I said in my review, Callie's "reason" for cutting was about as lame as it could be.